Map Designer Accuses Naughty Dog of Appropriating His Boston Subway Map Redesign for The Last of Us

June 25, 2013

After the whole hoopla with Ellen Page baring fangs at Naughty Dog for unduly using her likeness to portray The Last of Us‘ Ellie, throwing that kind of accusation at the developer seems to have become a trend. Only, this time the accuser might actually have a case.

Mr. Cameron Booth posted on the Transit Maps Tumblr a comparison between a subway map included in the game and his own redesign first posted on the internet on March the 11th, 2012. You can see it below.


The resemblance is definitely uncanny, and I can almost safely say that they are the same design, which is actually different from the publicly available version of the map.

Booth doesn’t seem too happy about the alleged appropriation of his work, as he explained in a rather pointed message:

My Boston T map used in “The Last of Us” PS3 game without permission or payment — Naughty Dog has been NAUGHTY

The top image above is apparently a screen capture of a new Playstation 3 game called “The Last of Us” developed by a company called Naughty Dog and released on June 14, 2013. According to Wikipedia, the game has received several “perfect” scores from game review sites and has had the biggest gaming launch of 2013, with 1.3 million units sold in its first week.

The lower image is, of course, my redesign for the Boston T map, which I first posted on the internet on March 11, 2012. Notice any similarities?

Basically, I’m fucking furious.

For a software developer — especially a big developer working on a blockbuster title like this — to casually appropriate someone else’s work and incorporate it into their game without any discussion with the owner of that work is completely unacceptable. (Not to mention hugely ironic, as the software industry is always complaining about piracy of their work.)

Naughty Dog seems to have known that they couldn’t use the official map without paying a hefty license fee, so it looks like they just went on the internet and found another one. Cos, you know, images on the internet are free for anyone to use, right? Not.

To be clear: at no point have Naughty Dog contacted me about using my intellectual property (this visual representation of the Boston rapid transit network) in their product.

To be even more clear: if you want to use my work commercially, payment before usage is required. If you’re making money from your product, then you can pay me for my work as well.

I am attempting to open communications with them now to ask where they came across the image, how it ended up in their game (with very pointed questions about their approvals and legal process), and what kind of compensation I can expect for the theft of my work.

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To be fair, the folks at Naughty Dog most probably found the map online and thought that it was the actual official map of the subway, which can look similar at first sight. That’s why I’m inclined to chalk it as a mistake made in good faith, but the problem remains. We’ll have to see how the developer will respond to Booth’s claims, and we’ll keep you posted if anything new surfaces.

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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